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Clowns ‘heal with laughter’ in quake-hit Nepal

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Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Laughter heals and this is proving to be true even in times of disaster. In Nepal, clowns are employing this humorous panacea in informal camps and hospitals set up for those affected by the earthquake, specifically for children.

Clowns in Kathmandu. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Clowns in Kathmandu. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

The Flower Clown, also known as Ron Fowler, has a long history of doing shows in Nepal since he first landed in the Himalayan nation in 1997 “falling in love with the country and its people”. He would never have imagined however, that an earthquake would have hit the country when he was there with his wife and 6-year-old daughter. While he and his family were unharmed, Fowler saw friends and strangers lose everything. Despite the circumstances, he managed to put on a balloon show for a group of children affected by the disaster.

“I didn’t have a lot in the way of basics to give out to people because I was stuck in the same situation as everybody else. On the other hand, I have a talent and still had some balloon stock,” said Fowler to the Baltic Review. A video capturing his act was uploaded to Facebook. Children appear reaching for balloons and ready to whack each other with faux swords.

“Clowns are rare in Nepal. I do however know of a magician in Kathmandu and this year I taught him how to make some balloon animals,” said the 45-year-old. He added that the balloons needed are not available in markets in Kathmandu. All Fowler’s extra stock plus one kilogram which is currently on the way from Bangkok will go to local magician Suraj Mainali.

“I am putting on some magic shows for earthquake victims. Yesterday I performed some magic tricks and organized a balloon demonstration for children to ease their stress and trauma,” Mainali told the Baltic Review.

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Indeed, each of us has quoted the well-known chestnut, “Laughter is the best medicine,” at one point or another. In real Patch Adams’ style, a team of medical clowns is ‘prescribing smiles’ to children in Nepal. A small yet significant part of the Israeli rescue team is the “Dream Doctors”. They are medical clowns with the mission of bringing laughter to kids recovering from injuries sustained during the earthquake. In the past, the Embassy of Israel in Nepal had facilitated training on practicing ‘medical clowning’ to help bridging the gap between doctors and patients in hospitals. If you imagined that the only place you would find a clown was in the circus, you will be surprised to see how things have changed. Clowns often visit pediatric wards to cheer up young patients. Studies suggest that their participation in treatments can help children endure painful procedures and speed their healing.

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Israeli clowns. Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

People in Nepal have lost family members and possessions during the quake, which killed more than 7,500 and injured more than 14,000. It might seem trivial to see a gang wearing red noses and floppy shoes where people lack basic necessities. But along with water, medicines, food and tents, they can offer psychological support and bring smiles to those in trauma.

Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Bibbi Abruzzini
Bibbi Abruzzini is a foreign correspondent for the BALTIC REVIEW and international news agencies in South Asia. She is Italian, grew up in Brussels and has reported from several countries, including Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Croatia, France, India, Italy, Lebanon, Nepal, Tunisia,Turkey and the US - writing largely about social and development issues.

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